Chuck Ross

‘Of course, you won’t be able to lie on your back for a while, but then you can lie from any position, can’t you?’ Sparkling Dialogue, Wonderful Films. It’s the TCM Classic Film Festival, Part 2

Apr 13, 2012

That line above is from “Charade,” the movie wherein Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant sparred in the best example of a romantic comedy meeting a mystery thriller since Nick Charles hooked up with Nora.

Written by Peter Stone and directed by Stanley Donen, “Charade” (1963) is usually compared to the movies made by Alfred Hitchcock. That may be because Grant had starred in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” five years earlier.

But “Charade” is much closer in tone to the wonderfully fun Thin Man movies, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. In those films the dialogue — often written by France Goodrich and Albert Hackett — crackled.

Bright dialogue is a hallmark of Stone, who was a playwright as well as a screenwriter.

The best anecdote about “Charade” was told by Stone in a commentary he made for the Criterion Collection release of the film in 1999. Stone says he originally wrote “Charade” as a screenplay, but could not find a studio interested in making it. So he turned the screenplay into a novel, and sold an excerpt to Redbook magazine. The next thing Stone knew, studios were tripping over each other trying to convince Stone that each of them would be the best place to make the movie.

Besides Grant and Hepburn, the killer cast includes Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy and Ned Glass.

“Charade” will be on the big screen on Sunday, part of the third annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood.

Since I mentioned Hitchcock above, a must-see on the big screen is the TCM Festival’s presentation of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (1958) today, April 13, 2012. One of Hitchcock’s most intricate works, I am among many who consider it his best movie. The movie also has the most nuanced performance Jimmy Stewart ever gave, the best score Bernard Herrmann ever wrote, and the best title sequence Saul Bass ever created. Robert Burks, who won an Academy Award for his cinematography for Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief,” wasn’t even nominated for this film, though the look of "Vertigo" is exquisite.

I also would urge you to check out “Raw Deal” (1948) at the Festival. It’s one of the tough, hard-as-nails B-movies that define the film noir genre. It was shot by John Alton, the cinematographer whose work on a handful of movies helped create the look of film noir. Somehow, almost magically, it appears that he just turned on the camera in shot after shot in this movie, with no artificial lights set up anywhere. And the story is terrific too, with both Claire Trevor and Marsha Hunt vying for the affection of con Dennis O’Keefe. It’s one of several film noirs that Anthony Mann directed at the beginning of his career.

These are just a few of the remarkable movies that will be shown at the TCM Festival through Sunday. Others include “Chinatown,” “Trouble in Paradise, “Seconds,” “Fall Guy,” “The Scarlett Empress,” “Black Narcissus,” “Letter From an Unknown Woman” and "Gun Crazy," which originally had the wonderfully evocative title "Deady Is the Female" with the tagline "Nothing Deadlier is Known to Man."   

Thank you TCM for letting us see these gems on the big screen.#

One Comment

  1. Fascinating! Your commentary on my personal favorite, the staggeringly brilliant (50+ years later!), Vertigo, are eloquent. Charade is the best Hitchcock film not made by the master (kudos to Stanley Donen). Hurray for TCM.

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